USAF Bunker Buster Bomb White Sands Proving Ground 2007
The Wall Street Journal had a report on the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), a 30,000 pound so-called bunker buster that the USAF has had under development for nearly a decade, “Pentagon Seeks Mightier Bomb Versus Iran.” The WSJ report reveals that the MOP may be a dud not able to penetrate far enough to hit deep underground Iranian nuclear development facilities. Moreover, the only means of knocking out enrichment facilities built under mountains like the one in Fordow near the holy city of Qom might be tactical nuclear weapons. One wonders if this is a public relations blitz by Defense Secretary Panetta to further delay consideration of a realistic military option. Cyber warfare and other non-conventional alternatives might be more credible. Note this from the WSJ article:
Pentagon war planners have concluded that their largest conventional bomb isn't yet capable of destroying Iran's most heavily fortified underground facilities, and are stepping up efforts to make it more powerful, according to U.S. officials briefed on the plan.
The 30,000-pound "bunker-buster" bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), was specifically designed to take out the hardened fortifications built by Iran and North Korea to cloak their nuclear programs.
[. . .]
Doubts about the MOP's effectiveness prompted the Pentagon this month to secretly submit a request to Congress for funding to enhance the bomb's ability to penetrate deeper into rock, concrete and steel before exploding, the officials said.
[. . .]
The Defense Department has spent about $330 million so far to develop about 20 of the bombs, which are built by Boeing Co. The Pentagon is seeking about $82 million more to make the bomb more effective, according to government officials briefed on the plan.
[. . .]
The Pentagon was particularly concerned about its ability to destroy bunkers built under mountains, such as Iran's Fordow site near the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom, according to a former senior U.S. official who is an expert on Iran.
The official said some Pentagon war planners believe conventional bombs won't be effective against Fordow and that a tactical nuclear weapon may be the only military option if the goal is to destroy the facility. "Once things go into the mountain, then really you have to have something that takes the mountain off," the official said.
The official said the MOP may be more effective against Iran's main enrichment plant at Natanz but added: "But even that is guesswork."
Back in 2009, when we were not yet aware of Stuxnet, the prevailing sentiment was to build this monster conventional weapon to be able to penetrate both Iranian and North Korean underground nuclear development facilities. There were contretemps between the US and Israel about the delivery of promised GBU-28’s, an earlier version of the bunker busters. We noted the development quandary in an Iconoclast post, “Did Defense Secretary Gates discuss the New Bunker Buster MOP Bomb with Israel?”
The USAF was rushing development of a new bunker buster bomb, the 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). It is a warning to both Iran and North Korea that the US had the conventional capability to hit reinforced nuclear facilities in both countries. An earlier version of the MOP, the 21,000 pound GBU 43 dubbed ‘the mother of all bombs’ had been successfully tested by the USAF 53rd Air Weapons Evaluation Group at the Tyndall Air Base range in Florida’s Panhandle in 2003. The precision-guided MOP could penetrate underground structures to a depth of 200 feet. Air Force spokespersons indicated the MOP could be available by mid-2010 pending Congressional authorization. The mammoth weapon could be delivered by either the aging fleet of B-52’s based in Diego Riviera in the Indian Ocean or by the B-2 Stealth bombers from bases in the US.
[. . .] Earlier in 2005 Israel had ordered delivery from the Pentagon of upwards of 100 5,300 pound laser-guided GBU-28’s for possible missions against Iranian nuclear facilities targets with its front-line F-15b’s.
Compare the 2009 MOP report with the WSJ report and it looks like baseball great Yogi Berra’s fabled malapropism, “it’s déjà vu all over again”.
What we have now is a patent dud with the use of the monster conventional MOP against hardened deep underground Iranian nuclear facilities.
That is where some out of the box thinking is needed into use of available advanced cyber-warfare and non-conventional nuclear options to counter these hardened deep underground Iranian and North Korean nuclear facilities.
Stuxnet, the first military-grade cyber weapon known to the world, has been called a digital missile and a cyber-Hiroshima bomb. But it was not a one-shot blast, new research shows. Rather, Stuxnet is part of a bigger cyber weapons system – a software platform, or framework – that can modify already-operational malicious software, researchers at two leading antivirus companies told the Monitor.
The platform appears to be able to fire and reload – again and again – to recalibrate for different targets and to bolt on different payloads, but with minimal added cost and effort, say researchers at Kaspersky Labs and at Symantec.
The evidence to date is that Stuxnet and its variants have disrupted Iran’s nuclear program and infected tens of thousands of computer controlled industrial and power infrastructure applications in Iran to the frustration of the Islamic Republic’s technocrats.
That should not lost on the US and certainly not Israel, whose cybertech prowess is world class. Its fabled Unit 8200 may have been involved with the development of Stuxnet Duqu and a whole class of more powerful cyber weapons, yet to be unveiled.
The US supplied bunker busters that the IAF may have will not do the job, however Stuxnet on steroids just might. And if that fails there is always the last resort, an EMP attack on Iran, that Israel is capable of launching. A targeted low-yield EMP attack against Iran could fry hundreds of thousands of computer control motherboards disrupting nuclear and oil development permanently. And if you think that Iran wouldn’t try that on us, think again. They have done ship-launched Scud missile tests in the Caspian Sea, prefiguring a scenario of such a launch from offshore of the US. See our August 2011 NER article, “The Iranian Missile Threat.”
Thinking outside the box should rivet the minds of military planners about how best to counter the Iranian nuclear threat.
Americans should pay heed to your last point that Iran is preparing to launch an EMP attack on the United States from off-shore missile launchers. Too many people think that Iran is only a threat to Israel.